— -- Hillary Clinton today declined to say the United States is at war with ISIS, and said “we’re not yet winning” the fight against the terrorist network, during an exclusive interview on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
“We’re not winning, but it’s too soon to say that we are doing everything we need to do,” Clinton said to George Stephanopoulos Sunday when asked if the United States is winning the fight against ISIS.
“And I’ve outlined very clearly. We have to fight them in the air, we have to fight them on the ground, and we have to fight them on the Internet, and we have to do everything we can with our friends and partners to protect ourselves,” she added.
The Democratic presidential front-runner also said the United States is in “conflict” with ISIS, but declined to declare war, as some of her Republican counterparts have done.
“We are definitely in conflict with ISIS,” Clinton said.
When asked if it was time to declare war on them, Clinton responded, “…I think we need a new update of military authorization, the AUMF [The Authorization for Use of Military Force], which was passed after the attack on 9/11.”
When pressed further, Clinton continued: “Well, war is a very legal term as you know so well.”
“I think what we want to do is make sure we have every tool at our disposal to destroy their would be caliphate in Syria and in Iraq. Number two, do everything we can to dismantle this very effective, virtual, jihadist network that they are using on the Internet. And number three, do whatever is necessary to protect us here at home,” Clinton said.
Further laying out her strategy, Clinton reiterated that she does not support American combat troops in Iraq or Syria, but called for increasing the number of special operation forces, although did not give a specific number.
“I don’t believe those should be American combat troops…I think it would make things worse not better,” she said. “I do believe we have to up our special ops numbers. The 50 that have been authorized need to get there, and then we need to take stock of what else we need.”
Clinton also had sharp words for Ted Cruz, who yesterday said, “If I am elected president we will utterly destroy ISIS…We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion.”
“That’s an easy thing to say, you know, he's never had any responsibility for trying to figure out you know who the bad guys are, and who innocent civilians are,” Clinton, the former secretary of state, said.
Clinton’s interview comes four days after a married couple shot and killed 14 people and injured 21 others in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. The rampage is now a federal investigation, with officials saying the suspects appear to have been inspired by ISIS.
In the days since the shooting, Clinton has called for stricter gun laws and for Congress to pass a law banning those on the no-fly list from buy weapons. Republicans, however, have challenged her on such laws.
During the interview with ABC News today, Clinton was asked about Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University in Virginia, who on Friday said that concealed-carry permits “could end those Muslims before they walked in…and killed them.”
Clinton said rhetoric like Fallwell’s will only “aid and comfort” ISIS.
“This is the kind of deplorable not only hateful response to a legitimate security issue,” Clinton said. “But it is giving aid and comfort to ISIS and other radical jihadists.”